Ready for the Covid vaccine? Here is some useful information...
Currently, two vaccines have been approved by the FDA and are part of the vaccination process for the general public: the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. The Moderna vaccine is more commonly given to the general public while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was used primarily for healthcare workers. Both vaccines use the same mRNA technology. This technology is described by the CDC as follows: “mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.” Simply put, the vaccine is the blueprint for the markers of the virus that your body then builds antibodies against. Coming as unfortunate news to many Stevenson students, however, the vaccines have not been permitted for use in children under age 16. Of 56 Stevenson community members surveyed, 83.9% would accept a Covid-19 vaccination if offered.
The vaccine feels like any normal vaccine. A small and uncomfortable pinch during the injection and immune response in the days after. Many experiences a sore armpit, a light headache, and fever symptoms. It is more common to have a more intense response to the second shot than the first with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
People are 50% immune two weeks after the first shot and 95% immune two weeks after the second shot, it is still incredibly important to continue to wear a mask because vaccinated people can still carry the virus and pass it on to unvaccinated people. Dr. Todd Dwelle, a pediatrician at Stanford Children’s Health, shares his post-vaccine practices as follows, “I wear a regular mask for most exams and I wear an N95 if it is a higher risk [patient]. Supposedly there is still a potential that I could be exposed to the virus that would get into my nose and sinuses and replicate and spread to other people even if it wouldn’t affect me.”
While it is incredibly important to learn about the nature of this vaccine and question its side effects, one must remember to do so with reliable and neutral authorities. A recent hypothesis that links the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with infertility was posed by a German doctor, epidemiologist Wolfgang Wodarg, and a former Pfizer employee. They questioned whether a protein used in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, syncytin-1, could pose issues for pregnancy. This protein is similar to the protein in the spikes of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, but it is also a vital protein in the placenta. Therefore, the scientist and former Pfizer employee proposed that the vaccine would lead to women’s bodies rejecting and attacking their own placenta causing harm to the fetus. There has been no evidence to support his hypothesis and it is worth noting that Wolfgang Wodarg has such a long-standing reputation for anti-vaccine rhetoric that Editors of the Journal of Nature Biotechnology wrote an essay in 2010 labeling Wodarg as an “anti-biotech gadfly” in regards to previous positions on H1N1 vaccines and GMOs.
Three people have died after receiving the Covid vaccine. Tim Zook, an X-ray technician at South Coast Global Medical Center in Santa Ana, died four days after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Tim Zook’s wife, Rochelle Zook comments, “But when someone gets symptoms 2 1/2 hours after a vaccine, that’s a reaction. What else could have happened? We would like the public to know what happened to Tim, so he didn’t die in vain. Severe reactions are rare. In reality, COVID is a much more deadly force than the potential reactions from the vaccine itself.” Additionally, a man from Placer county has died after receiving the vaccine; however, he had the virus in late December and did not follow the CDC’s recommendation to wait ninety days from infection to vaccination. One person has died sixteen days after receiving the vaccine, but it remains to be determined if there is a direct correlation to the injection. Twenty-nine people have experienced anaphylaxis but none have died. Dr. Dwelle comments, “The biggest concern is an allergic reaction and that is easy to manage if [patients and doctors] are prepared.” Dr. Jennifer Zeidberg, an OB/GYN at CHOMP said that after vaccination, she was instructed to sit for fifteen minutes so that she could be properly monitored. People whose bodies have previously experienced a negative reaction to vaccines were instructed to wait for thirty minutes for further caution. It is the difficult job of policy makers to decide whether the possibility of saving 2.13 million lives outweighs three.
One Stevenson community member reminds readers that “Vaccines are what allowed us to overcome smallpox, polio, and so many other diseases that would still be killing millions today if scientists had not figured out how to take advantage of an incredible tool (memory B cells and T cells) our bodies naturally have. The spread of misinformation about vaccines is tragic, as demonstrated by the fact that measles is now spreading again amongst midwest communities where parents choose not to vaccinate their children against it.”
“Hopefully [we can] get back to some sort of normalcy in the future and we need to somehow be able to maximize [this possibility] by wearing masks but also getting vaccinated.” Dr. Trisha Markusen, an OB/GYN at CHOMP comments. Currently, not many people have been vaccinated in Monterey County, with healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities being prioritized. Of the 31,525 total Covid vaccines received, only 13,402 have been administered at the time of writing. The county is still completing Phase 1a vaccination. Markusen expresses, “It’s frustrating, Chomp did a really good job of getting the healthcare workers to get vaccinated… but the distribution of the vaccine... is a little bit frustrating that is not going as quickly as we had all hoped.”